Panel 7b The Struggle for Identity and Power in Lebanon

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Chair: Fouad Gehad Marei, Doctoral Fellow, University of Durham

Paper 1: Hezbollah’s mujtama` al-muqāwama: Party, Modus Vivendi and Social Change
Fouad Gehad Marei,
Doctoral Fellow, University of Durham

Utilising social movements’ theory, this paper aims to examine Hezbollah’s impact on the Shia community. It looks at the party’s Islamo-Leninist organisational structure in an attempt to understand the role of mujtahids as the intellectual vanguard and agents of social change. The paper analyses the way in which the party constitutes the backbone of the counterculture – how the party and its subsidiary organisations disseminate the value system and socialise members of the community into the ‘Islamic Milieu’. The paper questions the extent to which Hezbollah has been successful as a social movement and, crucially, the extent to which the Islamic Milieu is a democratic, participatory cognitive praxis. It concludes by locating the subculture, mujtama` al-muqāwama, within the context of the consociational superstructure and questioning whether or not it poses a radical threat to stability and inter-confessional coexistence in Lebanon.

Paper 2: The Islamic Resistance in South Lebanon (1982-2010): Identity Building by the Borderland
Dr Daniel Meier,
Visiting Fellow, Centre for Lebanese Studies and Senior Associate Member, St Antony’s College

Historically, Hizballah has put the resistance against Israel as its raison d’être. After its appearance and its growth in the Bekaa, Hizballah found its favourite battleground in the south of Lebanon in order to mobilise on political, religious, and military bases. The post-civil war era allowed Hizballah to reinforce its strategic and political hegemony on this territory. Now that the party starts a new wave of entryism targeting the Lebanese state, this paper examines the place that the south borderland area has in the political and military strategies of Hizballah’s identity. It will then look at the connections between the notions of identity and borders that one can observe in the political speech and also in the everyday and military actions on the ground from the beginning until today. The paper suggests the idea that the borderland area of South Lebanon has significant political resources for its resistance identity and for its political goals. >> download the paper

Paper 3: Tripoli (Lebanon) as a Microcosm of the Crises in the Levant
Tine Gade, PhD candidate, SciencesPo Paris – CERI

This paper will argue that North Lebanon, the poorest and least educated region in Lebanon, has since the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon in April 2005 become a place where actors from the regional, transnational, national, and local political scenes meet and rival for control over the future of Sunnism. The political void left by the Syrian withdrawal has made Tripoli become the space in the Middle East where a high number of actors directly implicated in the transformations of Sunni Islam are present and competing for influence. Few systematic academic works have focused on the urban crisis in Tripoli and related it to the events in North Lebanon at the time of demonstrations in Beirut. This present paper aims to fill the void in the literature, which has until now made North Lebanon be the object of many very politicized scholarships.

Paper 4Lebanon and the Arab Spring: A Critical Perspective on the Struggle for Power in Lebanon
Dima Smaira, PhD candidate, Durham University

For many, the so called ‘Arab Spring’ seemed to bypass Lebanon. This study examines this assumption from the lens of critical security studies in order to generate a clearer understanding of the current political situation in Lebanon. Political discourse in Lebanon remains over the struggle for power between two contending factions. These factions are constellations of sub-identities that survive as extensions of larger regional and international forces. Lebanese society remains mobilized along politico-sectarian lines and remains imprisoned by the traditional security discourse. This discourse continues to revolve around the representation of the main groups and the resistance to the other. Identity, therefore, continues to strongly define the nature of the power struggle in Lebanon and prevents Lebanese society from unequivocally espousing regional changes.. In many ways, the political dynamic in Lebanon showcases the intricate relationship between “identity” on the one hand and, “representation” and “resistance” on the other. >> download the paper

Paper 5Shifting Dynamics: Syria and Lebanon after the Arab Spring
Andrew Bowen, PhD candidate, Department of International Relations, LSE

The relationship between Syria and Lebanon is at the heart of the conflict between Syria and Iran on the one hand, and Israel and the United States on the other. The post-Taif state of Lebanon emerged as a divided and weakened state under the sway of Syria. Domestic opposition groups, most notably Hezbollah, were not only a tool used by Syria but also Iran as part of their strategy in the domestic, regional, and global conflicts. Paradoxically, Lebanon is now one of the more stable states in the region and wider Arab world. With the emergence of the Arab Spring in Syria important questions are awaiting their answer. Will the bilateral relationship between Syria and Lebanon be subject to fundamental changes? What is the effect on the domestic situation in Lebanon, but also the wider conflict involving international actors? This paper will analyze the development of the relationship between Syria and Lebanon, and will draw lessons that will help answer these fundamental questions. >> download the paper

These are abridged versions of the abstracts submitted by  the presenters.
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